Nancy Northcott's Blog

May 22, 2018

On Location: Nemesis

Combining wild horses, a ruined mansion, and two historic Georgia cities seemed natural when the time came to write Tasha and Carter’s book. I’d already set up her home as Savannah, and he works in the Collegium, in Brunswick. To learn more about the area, my husband and I visited Cumberland Island National Seashore. We’d heard about it while staying in Kingsland, Georgia, to visit the Okefenokee Swamp and do research for other books in the Light Mage Wars series.

What we found amazed and enchanted us, and we only scratched the surface of the place. Putting what we saw there together with trips to Savannah and Brunswick was huge fun!


The trip to Cumberland Island starts from a National Park Service dock in St. Marys, Georgia. A ranger gathers everyone who’s going to the island and explains about the scarcity of potable water sources and the rules for the ferry trips. We had packed lunch and water, so we figured we were okay with that.

The most important rule is that the boat leaves the island on schedule. Anyone not planning to camp overnight and not on the dock when it goes will need to hire transportation to return to the mainland.


The ranger also explained the importance of leaving the horses alone. They’re wild animals, not pets, and don’t necessarily take kindly to people coming close. We decided to give them plenty of room. With a zoom lens, after all, we could seem closer than we actually were. Here’s a group of horses came by while we were eating our picnic lunch under the live oaks.








Researching the area around the swamp led me to read up on the island, and I knew there were ruined mansions on the southern end. The one that most interested me was Dungeness, a former Carnegie family home built on land originally owned by one of my Revolutionary War heroes, General Nathaniel Greene.

When we reached the ruin, we were delighted to discover horses roaming around it. We were very careful to watch where we stepped!










This is the “cistern” that plays a role in Nemesis. For the book, I made it deeper than it appears to be here. I also don’t know whether this actually is a cistern, but that seemed a reasonable thing for it to be, so I went with it.





On the way to Dungeness, Tasha and Carter go through the woods, which are mostly live oak trees festooned with Spanish moss and thickets of saw palmetto. The saw palmetto is the plant with the bladed leaves that kind of form a disc. It’s the bright green stuff close to the ground in the photo



I also like the approach to Dungeness. My cover designer, Lyndsey Lewellen, and I looked at using this for a cover photo, but it didn’t work well with a shirtless guy and text superimposed on it!

From Cumberland Island, my husband and I went to Savannah, which was founded in 1733. It was the first city we visited together, and we’ve always been fond of it. It’s very walkable with a lot of history on display. Here are a couple of photos from that visit.










One scene in Nemesis is set in Colonial Park Cemetery Here are the entrance and the tombstone wall Tasha explains to Carter. (This is not the cemetery from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, in case you’re wondering.)











In Nemesis, we learn that Tasha lives in a Victorian fixer-upper near Forsythe Park. Here’s a street across from the park. Below is the fountain in the park, which is a beautiful green space on the edge of the historic district.







Here are a couple of photos of the historic district.








This fountain, which is on Factors Walk, isn’t mentioned in the story. I’ve included it here just because I think it’s cool!










Also not in the book but a favorite sight of mine is this balcony. It’s on the side of the Owens-Thomas house, a Regency mansion that’s well worth a visit. In 1815, the Marquis de Lafayette stayed there when he toured the United States. He delivered a speech from this balcony.





Because Carter lives in Brunswick and Tasha has clients there, that city also figures in the book. I visited it most recently with author Jeanne Adams. Founded in 1738, the city has a pretty downtown area (shown below), beautiful close-in neighborhoods, and marshes (almost like swamps!) nearby. The poet Sidney Lanier wrote a poem about it, “The Marshes of Glynn.” (Brunswick is in Glynn County.)








The city also several waterside parks. Jeanne and I stumbled onto this one, Mary Ross Waterfront Park, as we drove into Brunswick. A flea market, mostly featuring food, was going on under the shed at right.

A couple of the vendors recommended neighborhoods for us to visit. The park features in “Magic & Mistletoe” as well as Nemesis, and it’s the location for a very special event at the end of the book.



A couple we met while wandering and photographing one of the older residential neighborhoods told us not to miss seeing Old City Hall. It’s no longer the seat of government and has space that can be rented for events. I loved it so much that I used it at the end of the story.

They also pointed us to a couple of other local sights that didn’t fit with Nemesis but will surely pop up later in the series. Their neighborhood was so appealing that Stefan and Mel (from Guardian) bought a house there.




Here I am on River Street in Savannah. I can’t always walk the ground my characters do. When I wrote Renegade, the Okefenokee barely played a role because I’d had to rely on the internet for research and was afraid of getting things wrong.

I’m so pleased that I could visit the locations in Nemesis before finishing the book. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them as much I enjoyed seeing them.


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Published on May 22, 2018 09:00

July 9, 2017

To Trope or Not to Trope

My guest today is author Alexandra Christian, whose bio appears at the end of this post. We’re celebrating the launch of her new book, Naked. It has fantasy, science fiction, shifters, and very, very hot romance.  You can check it out here. As you may’ve guessed from the post’s title, she’s going to talk to us about tropes.

Welcome, Alexandra!

You can’t talk about the romance genre without talking about tropes. Tropes are certain conventions that appear in literature. Those comfortable little plot points that we can nestle down in and escape. Some people are of the opinion that tropes are bad. That our jobs as writers are to break new ground and blow those tired old tropes out of the water. And I can definitely understand that point of view. I like to read different stories that aren’t like every story I’ve read before. But I can also appreciate the familiarity of a tried and true trope that makes the story an escape.

We all love things we can predict sometimes. Take the success of Midsomer Murders. It’s a British detective series that’s been running for a thousand years. If you watch it on a regular basis, you start to notice a formula: a body is found, Inspector Barnaby is called away from some quirky family business to investigate, they talk to everyone in the village that has reason to want the person dead, you think you know who the murderer is until that person gets murdered before the commercial break, the killer ends up being the person you least expected, and we all live happily ever after. People tune in for it week after week because the comfort of that formula is there.

Tropes do this for romantic stories in a very effective way. We want there to be twists and turns, but we have basic elements that we look for when we start searching for a new favorite read. Here are some of my favorites:

MC in peril: Phoe Addison, the heroine of Naked, fits in easily with this trope. She is a woman that is in danger from outside forces and needs Cage’s help. I love these stories because the lovers are thrown together in difficult circumstances. They grow to rely on one another and their relationship grows through their teamwork at solving the larger problem.

Fairytales: As a child, fairytales were my favorite kind of story. Incidentally, fairytales are often romances at their core (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast… need I go on?). As a romance genre trope, the fairytale stories are often updated to present day, or transported to different settings or times in history. I love writing fairytales, as is evident in my books Beast of Burden and Huntress. In Beast, it’s an erotic retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” where the hero, Marek, is a werewolf. For Huntress, I found a very old Scandinavian dragon story for the basis of hero Malik’s redemption.

Performers: Stories where one of the protagonists is a performer of some sort (actor, musician, etc.). Sometimes they’re called celebrity romances. I think we can all identify with those. I know that I’ve been mentally dating Benedict Cumberbatch for years now. I wrote a short, summery piece called Hollywood about a romance novelist in Bora Bora who meets her celebrity crush and has a little rendezvous. Gee… I wonder where I got the idea for that?

Virgin: This trope can be controversial if the author doesn’t get the ages right. For me, the key to these kinds of stories is the slow-burning romance between the two main characters. Showcasing the alpha hero’s tenderness with an unsure lover can always bake my muffins. I tried to incorporate this trope a little in Naked with Phoe and Cage’s first love scene. Phoe is not very experienced and has been sheltered most of her life. She doesn’t come right out and say that she’s a virgin, but the concept is there.

More obvious is in the first installment of my Queen Joanna series, The Virgin Queen. It’s a medieval romance where the heroine Joanna is married off to the king, who she assumes is a cold, disfigured brute. He turns out to be quite the opposite and their story is probably one of my more luscious stories.

Protector: I know, you’re going to take away my feminist card, but I love this trope. A story where the hero has to protect the heroine in some way– those make me melt. Now, that’s not to say that in the same story, the heroine can’t turn around and rescue him right back. In Naked, Phoe is very timid at the beginning and Cage steps up and protects her from the men chasing her and from the terrible creatures that try to kill them. She’s terrified at the prospect of leaving her home and is paying this “big strong man” to help her through it. Of course, by the end, Phoe becomes a badass in her own right and has to help Cage out of some sticky situations.

So tropes can be useful tools in choosing stories as well as writing them. They can also be traps, so choose wisely. The trick is to take those comfortable tropes and give them a twist that will make them stand out from the rest.

Here’s “Caught in the Rain,” an excerpt from Naked:

There is no situation that can’t be made worse with the addition of heavy rain. Phoebe stumbled down the path behind St. John, her sensible pumps sinking into the squishy ground with every step. His long-legged strides weren’t particularly fast, but she was practically running to catch up. She was also trying to pull a bulky suitcase behind her without much luck. Finally she ran over a large rock, tipping the case over and taking her with it. She sat down hard on the wet ground, the standing water in the grass splashing up and peppering her with a spray of muddy freckles. “Damnit!” she cried, wanting to throw herself down and have a kicking and screaming tantrum. Instead she took off one of her shoes and threw it as hard as she could. It whizzed past St. John’s ear, and he finally turned.

“Problem?” he asked, strolling back toward where she sat in the grass.

“Can you slow down a minute, please?” Her tone was teetering on annoyance. Couldn’t he see that she was having trouble? So much for the politeness of the British.

He stared down at her, his arms crossed over his chest. “Actually, no. We need to get as far away from that crash site as soon as possible and you to that spaceport so I can be on my way.” He looked over the assortment of items that had fallen out of the case as it tipped over. “Got any trainers in there?”

Phoebe looked up at him like he had suddenly lapsed into Chinese. “What?”

“Trainers. Shoes. Like shoes you wear for running.”

“Oh. Not really, no.”

“Jeans? A jumper?”

“No. I didn’t think I’d be trekking through the forest,” she replied, taking his offered hand and letting him pull her upright. She limped over to where she had thrown her shoe, searching the grass.

“Is there anything in there that’s helpful or important?”

“Well of course,” she replied. “My clothes and toothbrush… anti-bac hand lotion…” She continued listing off all of the things as she pulled her discarded shoe back on. Heaving a sigh, he grabbed the suitcase and slung it as hard as he could over the ravine.

“What are you doing?” She could feel the pressure of angry tears behind her eyes as she watched all of her worldly possessions take a header down the bank, spilling her delicates over the dirty ground. How dare he have such disregard for her personal property! Not to mention that the items in that suitcase were her security blankets. There might not be anything of value or anything “helpful,” but there were things she needed! A picture of her family, her allergy medicine… her copy of Gone With the Wind. Phoebe started to run after the case, but St. John held her back. She beat her fists against his arms and chest. “Let me go! That’s my stuff! I need it!”

“Your stuff is slowing us down. Look, I said I would help you, but I’m not a bellhop or a hero! If you’re going with me, you play by my rules.” He looked up into the sky and let her go. “Come on… it’s nearly dawn.”

She watched him go, starting to reconsider her pleas for his help and then realizing that she had little choice but to follow him. They were now so far off the beaten path that she’d never find her way out. Steeling her jaw and giving a last glance back to where he’d thrown her suitcase, she started walking. Despite his growling, he did slow the pace a little so that she could keep up.

As they walked on and on, the trees rose up around them in an ominous canopy that nearly obliterated the early morning light of dawn. She could hear the stream that ran along beside them at the bottom of the ravine. It was hard to believe in their world that places such as this still even existed. It was almost desolate, but beautiful. Watching him as they walked, she slowly realized that St. John seemed almost as distressed as she felt. By now they’d been walking for hours, and in that time he’d become increasingly irritable. After several attempts at conversation, Phoebe had just given up and walked beside him silently. But his mood was starting to make her worry even more than she had been already.

“So… you don’t really seem like the normal space traveler,” he said, surprising her by breaking the silence. St. John shifted the backpack from one shoulder to the other. “What’s taking you to New London?”

“What? Oh… yes. My sister,” she replied. “I’m going to visit her.”

“Interesting,” he replied blandly.

Her heart pounded in her chest. She didn’t fully trust St. John and wasn’t sure that she should reveal her true intentions. Anyone could be working for Machine. Maybe he had been sent to keep an eye on her. Phoe was a fan of James Bond, so she had spent many an hour watching spy movies. He could be some kind of operative that was just waiting for an opportunity to steal the medallion and leave her broken body in the woods. And of course there was the werewolf thing. “Not really. I mean… it’s just a visit.”

“Well considering that no one really lives on the space colony unless they’re either filthy rich or a scientist of some sort. Judging by your clothes, you don’t appear to be particularly wealthy. So that leaves scientist.”

“She’s an archaeologist,” Phoebe answered. “She works for the Interplanetary Union, looking for natural resources and such. I’m a librarian.”

“I didn’t know those existed anymore. Libraries, I mean.”

“In small towns mostly, I suppose. I mean, I used to work for a digital archive in New Orleans, but I… I didn’t really like it there.” She bit down on her lip, wishing she could take it back. Her brain whirred, already constructing the story that she would tell him when he asked why she’d left New Orleans. Everyone asked why.

To her surprise, St. John just nodded, glancing toward the lightening sky again.

“What about you?”

“What about me?” he parroted.

“Well… what do you do?”

“I… I’m not really sure how to describe what I do. I’m a problem solver, I guess.” Given the things Phoe saw in his backpack, his problem solving skills must involve heavy artillery.

Here are Alexandra’s bio and a list of sites where you can find more information about her and her books:

Alexandra Christian is an author of mostly romance with a speculative slant. Her love of Stephen King and sweet tea has flavored her fiction with a Southern Gothic sensibility that reeks of Spanish moss and deep fried eccentricity. As one-half of the writing team at Little Red Hen Romance, she’s committed to bringing exciting stories and sapiosexual love monkeys to intelligent readers everywhere. Lexx also likes to keep her fingers in lots of different pies having written everything from sci-fi and horror to Sherlock Holmes adventures. Her alter-ego, A.C. Thompson, is also the editor of the highly successful Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series of anthologies.

A self-proclaimed “Southern Belle from Hell,” Lexx is a native South Carolinian who lives with an epileptic wiener dog and her husband, author Tally Johnson. Her long-term aspirations are to one day be a best-selling authoress and part-time pinup girl. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and Broad Universe—an organization that supports female authors of speculative fiction.






Thanks for stopping by!

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Published on July 09, 2017 21:56

January 17, 2017

TBR Challenge Review: Lord of Scoundrels

How do you reach the heart of a man who distrusts and even fears love? That’s not an uncommon question in romances, but it’s handled superbly in Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels. This is one of those books I’ve meant to read for a long time. While this month’s theme is short fiction, I didn’t have that in the pile, so I substituted this a full-length novel. I was very glad I had.

A boy who grows up neglected and emotionally abused, abandoned by his mother and shunned by his father, doesn’t learn much about how to love. So it’s no wonder the Marquess of Dain guards his heart. He wants nothing to do with the polite sort of woman and spends most of his time engaged in the various entertaining forms of debauchery available in Paris in 1828.

One of his comrades these excesses is Bertie Trent, whose sister, Jessica, and grandmother come to pry him away from the fast set he’s joined. From the moment Dain and Jessica meet, attraction sparks between them, but neither actually likes the other, or so they think. A battle of wills commences with Jessica determined to wrest Bertie free of Dain’s influence and an insulted Dain determined to prove she can’t.

At the same time, neither can forget about the other or stop fantasizing about the other. Each of them wages an internal heart/head battle and tries to rationalize away their mutual attraction.

Matters come to a head when Dain inadvertently compromises Jessica. What happens after they’re discovered together fits their characters perfectly and keeps the conflict rolling in way that is not only clever but novel and yet sympathetic on both sides.

One of the things I most like about Jessica is that she’s smart. She’s good at reading situations and people, and she uses that to advantage in dealing with Dain. She’s also very composed and, thanks to helping to raise young male cousins, familiar with the thought processes of boys and men.  When she brings her intelligence to bear on the problem of winning Dain’s heart, she wields a powerful weapon.

Dain, despite his brusqueness, stubbornness and tendency to intimidate those around him, has a kind heart. He tries to be fair to Jessica when he learns he’s been wrong. His errors are largely due to a mindset conditioned into him, but he’s not averse to revising his opinion.

The emotional struggle they wage is spiked by attraction, respect, and a healthy dose of lust. The push-pull of wanting and not wanting is superbly handled. The characters are engaging, and the story moves at a good pace.

For the TBR Challenge, I plan to post reviews only of books I can recommend enthusiastically. This is one of them.

Thanks to Wendy the Super Librarian for starting this challenge!

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Published on January 17, 2017 20:14

December 14, 2016

The Magic Christmas Guy

This was a fun story to write.  I’m a sucker for holiday decorations, and I enjoyed creating a situation where the decorations played a central role.

There used to be a young man in our neighborhood who decorated his small house and yard to the max every Christmas.  He had “Merry Christmas” spelled out in lights on his fence, outlined his entire house (including the windows) in lights, and had inflatables in his yard and on his roof.  We loved his Christmas kitsch so much that we drove by several times each year to admire it. Never having met him, we didn’t know his name. We just referred to him as Christmas Guy.

barcelonadecorations1I don’t have any photos of Christmas Guy’s magnificent efforts, but I like this photo of a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, when the city was decorated for Christmas. The red lights at left, about halfway up, are made of light strings in loops, several of them hanging together.  Apparently Antoni Gaudi, the famous architect, used a similar device to create in inverted arches.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for decorations.  Unfortunately, lights don’t always photograph clearly on my little camera.

Anyway, getting back to the story…

Because I so enjoy decorations, I knew I want them to play a big part in “The Magic Christmas Guy,” and the title obviously had to have Christmas Guy in it.  And I wanted to use the town of Wayfarer from my Light Mage Wars series because small towns make a bigger thing of their Christmas celebrations than big cities.

christmastree1The small town near my high school had a Christmas parade every year, and our band marched in it.  My hometown had a big pine tree on Main Street that was decorated with lights every year–until Hurricane Hugo took it out.

So this was going to be a story set in Wayfarer, and the perfect foil for Christmas Guy was a woman who didn’t celebrate the holidays.  She’s not a grinch, but her family suffered a holiday tragedy that led them to avoid all things Christmas-related as much as possible.

Here’s the description:

A Heart Scarred by Loss

Who knew that the small town of Wayfarer, Georgia, was freaking Christmas Central?  Accountant Jenny Bridges, haunted by the Christmas Eve death of her twin sister, plans to ignore the twinkling lights and festivities and focus on her new job, which she desperately needs. Her boss, however, insists that Jenny help her hunky neighbor across the street—who just happens to be a mage like she is—with the town’s annual holiday carnival.

A Magic Man

Deputy Mike McLean loves Christmas. Every wreath, every colored bulb, every ho, ho, ho. Each December for decades, his family has hosted the town’s annual charity carnival at their old Victorian home, and this year his pretty new neighbor adds extra zing. Lo and behold, she’s a mage, too, but as the attraction between them sparkles like the lights on the holiday trees, Jenny sees it, and him, as a betrayal of her sister’s memory.

A Season for Miracles

What Jenny doesn’t know is that along with holiday spirit and magical gifts, Mike has patience in spades. Can the hope of the season heal her wounded soul, and make the kind of magic that lasts forever?

And here’s a look at Mike and Jenny’s first meeting:

Chapter 1

the-magic-christmas-guy-finalMaybe moving here was a mistake.

As the grocery checkout line moved forward, Jenny Bridges steeled herself for the conversation at the register. How could anyone guess that Wayfarer, Georgia, a town famed for its love of New Age woo-woo, would also be totally gaga for the holiday that had scarred her soul?

Anyway, it wasn’t as though she’d had a lot of choices about where to start over. She’d been tarnished by association after her unexpectedly scuzzbucket ex embezzled from a client of the Atlanta accounting firm where they both worked. On top of that, he’d billed hours he hadn’t worked. Jenny’s own records had been scrutinized like a new microbe in a plague zone. They were clean, of course, because she was honest. That had saved her from being fired, but the taint persisted.

Even worse, word had gotten around in the professional community, as word always did, and Jenny had become about as desirable an employee as a mangy dog. If her uncle hadn’t approached an old friend who ran a firm here in Wayfarer, Jenny would’ve been caught in the limbo of a disgraced employee with no chance for advancement and no alternate prospects.

“Merry Christmas, Lissa,” the cashier said to the thin, graying woman picking up her bag. “Happy Solstice, too. Y’all havin’ a party?”

“Not this year. We’re goin’ to my sister’s. Merry Christmas to you, too, Estelle, and Happy Kwanzaa.”

Lissa Whoever moved on, and the lanky guy behind her with the gold wire-rimmed glasses and unruly mop of brown hair stepped up. His easy smile lit his lean, solemn face and made him downright handsome. “Y’all getting ready for Christmas, Estelle?”

“Working on it, Reverend. How’re things at the shelter? You gonna have a full house for the holidays?”

“I hope not. People are happier when they’re settled somewhere.”

He must be the director of the community shelter. Jenny’d heard good things about it in the six weeks she’d lived here. She tuned out the conversation. Two more people ahead of her.

Two more holiday conversations, and then she was up.

But her family’s loss wasn’t these well-intentioned, friendly people’s problem. So she would do what she always did during the Christmas season, suck it up and deal. She would smile and say something neutral and hide the grief that had never gone away.

And she was definitely buying her groceries in big loads until the holiday was over. If she hadn’t forgotten it was her turn to bring the office coffee, she wouldn’t be here this morning.

At last, Jenny reached the register. She set the coffee on the cashier’s stand and braced herself.

“Well, hey, Jenny. That’ll be thirteen ninety-three, please. You all set for Christmas?”

“More or less.” Relaxed, easy tone, smile in place. All good. Jenny passed over the money. “My parents are coming, but we don’t really celebrate the holidays, so there isn’t much to do.”

Estelle didn’t need to know that the Christmas Eve death of Jenny’s twin sister twelve years ago, when they were fifteen, had pretty much demolished the holiday at the Bridges house. Nor could she know that Josie’s death had been caused by the dark magic users known as ghouls. No Mundane, or normal person, could know that. Or that ghouls kidnapped mages and Mundanes as breeders or snacks or just to torment for the hell of it.

Whatever the ghouls had intended for Josie, at least she’d escaped that.

Smiling, Estelle bagged the coffee and handed it over. “Well, there’s a lot to be said for a quiet day or two. You have a good one.”

Jenny thanked her. Hurrying toward the market’s glass front, she let out a relieved breath. That wasn’t so bad.

People did mean well, and the difficult part of the year lasted about a month. If everyone else was as laid back as Estelle, Jenny could deal. She’d come to like this pretty, friendly, somewhat eccentric town.

People were so informal here. The cashier at her grocery store in Atlanta had never learned her name. But cashiers there tended to come and go. Jenny’d heard that Estelle had run the register at Wayfarer Market for more than twenty years.

A man in the khaki shirt, green trousers, brown ball cap, and leather jacket of the Wayfarer County Sheriff’s Department was on his way in. He stepped back, holding the front door for Jenny. Before she could thank him, a faint magical vibe brushed her skin as it resonated with her own power.

He was a fellow mage. What were the odds that she would meet another mage in this town?

When she looked up in surprise, he said, “Hey, neighbor.”

His familiar face stopped her in her tracks, and her heart did a pit-a-pat. “You live across the street from me.”

“Sure do.” He let the door swing shut and extended his hand. “Mike McLean. I’ve been meaning to come say hello, but I’ve been on the night shift. Makes for a weird schedule.”

“I bet.” She shook the offered hand, and the contact generated a little buzz of excitement that had nothing to do with both of them being mageborn.

“I’m Jenny Bridges,” she added, recovering. She tugged at her hand, and he released it. His warm smile, though, said he’d been reluctant to let go and didn’t care that she knew it. He was confident.

And way too attractive. Glimpsing him from across the street, she’d found the view very appealing. Up close, he was seriously hot.

She continued, “The few times I’ve seen you, I’ve been running late, so I didn’t introduce myself.”

“We’ve fixed that now.” He grinned, and Jenny naturally grinned back. He was one of those people whose mood was infectious. His open, friendly smile was such a contrast with her sleazoid ex, Grant’s, calculation.

Mike also had sheer, male presence to back up his broad-shouldered, muscular build and rugged features. The short, brown hair and brown eyes didn’t hurt either. The intense interest in those eyes made Jenny’s heart flutter.

Scrambling for something intelligent to say, she came up with, “Your house is so gorgeous. Victorian, right?” Set on a huge lot, it was a warm shade of slate blue, with white gingerbread trim along the eaves.

“That’s right, and thanks. I grew up there.”

“I imagine you’ll be glad when all the work on it’s finished.”

“Work?” He looked baffled.

She raised her eyebrows. “You know, the electricians and bucket trucks and carpenters and even landscapers in your driveway?”

“Oh, them.” He smiled, and his eyes held a glint of humor. “You hadn’t heard that I host the Wayfarer Christmas Carnival?”

Christmas. Oh, no. Jenny forced a smile. “No wonder things have been so busy over there. I’ve heard enough to know the carnival is a big event for the town.” It was an annual fundraiser for the town’s library and community shelter, but she hadn’t paid much attention. “I’m surprised no one at work mentioned that it was across from my house.”

“Maybe they figured you knew.” He shrugged. “It’ll all be done this afternoon, though. I’ll have the lights on at seven. Swing by, and you’ll see it all.”

“I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I don’t really celebrate Christmas. Thanks, though.”

His smile faded a bit. “Sure. If you change your mind, you’re always welcome.”

“Thanks.” The disappointment in his face was subtle and definite. And flattering. Her own regret was sharper than she’d expected. But no way was she immersing herself in something that celebrated all she’d lost with Josie’s death.

An elderly couple who looked past retirement age started out of the market. Mike grabbed the door for them. They exchanged greetings, and he introduced Jenny. The couple, Bert and Sally Dickson, moved on with a “See you tonight, Mike.”

Mike turned back to Jenny. “You on your way to work?”

“Yeah. I imagine you have, er, perps to catch or something.”

“Not many perps in Wayfarer.” He grinned again, making her pulse, unfortunately, skip. “We mostly get neighborly disputes, the occasional kid shoplifting to see if it feels cool, and some out-of-towners speeding. But I should get back to it. Good to meet you at last.”

“You, too.”

Opening the door again, he doffed the ball cap and jammed it into his back pocket.

Jenny hurried back to her car. He was friendly and hot and a mage, but hosting the carnival meant he was also, unfortunately, a serious Christmas Guy. Just what she didn’t need. He was the first attractive guy she’d met since dumping Grant, and he was all wrong for her. Absolutely.

Too bad.


So that’s a brief look at “The Magic Christmas Guy.”  In the real world, we got our Christmas tree today, though we won’t decorate it until the weekend.  That’s when we’ll also pull out the boxes of decorations accumulated over the years and dig out the wrapping paper and really dive into the holiday.

img_1707One of the decorations I always make sure actually goes on the tree is pictured at left, a plastic reindeer I saved when my parents downsized.  I think he used to have eight companions, but he was the last one left.  I saved him because he’s a piece of Christmases past, a tangible reminder of holidays long gone by.  My parents probably got him at a dime store (what we had before big boxes like Target), but he has lasted a long time.

I’ll be back the day after Christmas, aka Boxing Day, hanging out and chatting with whoever drops by.  I hope you’ll be able to pop in. Today, though, let’s talk decorating.  What’s your favorite holiday decoration, either at Christmas or for another season or you celebrate?

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Published on December 14, 2016 21:44

December 4, 2016

Introducing Nichole Christoff

My guest today, Nichole Christoff, is making her Lair debut.  I discovered Nichole when I saw a reference to her debut novel, The Kill List, on an RWA loop.  It sounded like my kind of book, so I grabbed it, devoured it, and started jonesing for more.  Nichole’s protagonist, Jamie Sinclair, combines the ability to kick serious butt with a very vulnerable heart.  Jamie’s fourth adventure, The Kill Sign, is out tomorrow, so Nichole is celebrating with us.

Welcome, Nichole! Who is Jamie Sinclair?

nichole-christoffJamie Sinclair is a private-investigator-turned-security-specialist with a long list of high risk, high profile clients who call her when calling the police is out of the question. Jamie is also the only child of a retired two-star general who’s now a US Senator. In many ways, she was the son he never had so she developed quite a skill-set during a childhood spent at his side. As a result, Jamie’s rough-and-tumble on the outside, but with a failed marriage behind her, she’s quite soft on the inside. There’s a vulnerability to Jamie and a strength I admire.

How did you come up with her background?

thekilllistcoverAs the spouse of a US military officer, I often attended events at embassies and diplomats’ residences. At the fringes of events like these, security teams, charged with keeping the diplomats and their guests safe, keep watch. These teams are mostly made-up of highly-trained men, but among them are highly-trained women as well. By the time I began to work out the crime in what would become The Kill List, I knew I needed a heroine possessing the professional capabilities of those interesting women who’d safeguarded me, if my protagonist were going to get the job done. And that’s how Jamie was born.

We love call stories in the Lair. Will you share yours?

Sure! One ordinary April afternoon, my awesome agent, Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh and Otis, called to say we had an offer from Random House’s extraordinary Kate Miciak. You might know Kate for acquiring and editing Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, plus she’s edited half the books on my keeper shelf. Kate and I got right to work on the first novel in the Jamie Sinclair series, and now the latest one, The Kill Sign, arrives December 6th!

the-kill-shotWhy do Jamie and Adam Barrett cross paths?

Jamie and Lieutenant Colonel Adam Barrett first cross paths in my debut novel, The Kill List, when her lying, cheating, army officer ex-husband begs her to track down the kidnapper who snatched the diabetic daughter he fathered with another woman. For the sake of the child, Jamie won’t say no to the job, even though it means returning to the army post where she grew up and putting up with her ex-husband again. But the FBI and Adam Barrett, the post’s military police commander, aren’t too happy to have a private eye like Jamie stepping on their toes.

Jamie, however, isn’t reckless. She’s smart and she’s capable, and Barrett’s a man who appreciates those qualities. Now, if Barrett gets his way, crossing paths with Jamie just might become a permanent arrangement.

the-kill-boxPlease tell us about the first three books in the series.

In all the Jamie Sinclair novels, Jamie faces professional challenges, but she also faces personal ones, too. We meet Jamie in The Kill List, and to keep a little girl safe, she’s forced to trust again. In The Kill Shot, Jamie’s overbearing father requests the one thing he’s never asked for in his life: Jamie’s help. But when Jamie takes her father’s case, she finds herself in a dangerous game of international cat-and-mouse that could cost her her life.

In The Kill Box, Jamie rushes to Barrett’s hometown when a cold case from his past threatens their future, but everything goes wrong when a killer sets his sights on Jamie, and she meets a man who just might give Barrett a run for his money.

How does The Kill Sign build on these?

For Jamie, the stakes couldn’t be higher in The Kill Sign. She’s at a crossroads in this novel, both in terms of her relationship with Barrett and in regard to her career. In both instances, she can see the road not taken, and she has to decide what she’s going to do about it.

Would you like to share an excerpt from one of the books?

thekillsigncoverI’d love to. This passage is from the newest novel in the series, The Kill Sign. After a dirty bomb destroys a riverboat casino and nearly takes Jamie and Barrett down with it, she tracks a notorious gambler to a private hunting lodge in the Deep South, and he sends his enforcers to get rid of her. His men pile into all-terrain vehicles to chase Jamie through the woods with guns blazing, and this is what happens next:

Instinctively, I leapt for thick brush and safety. Bullets tore the leathery leaves of a wild magnolia as I hammered past it, intent on finding a new way to the main road and my SUV. And just as I began to put some distance between my tender hide and the ATV racing along the lane, a second all-terrain vehicle burst from a thicket, digging into the leaf litter in front of me and cutting off my escape route.

I turned on a dime, fled down a slope where hardwoods grew few and far between. Cypress dotted the landscape instead. I stumbled and fell on the hip still sore from my encounter with Monique. Momentum carried me down a muddy embankment. I tried to right myself, but I tumbled.

Head over heels, I splashed into the shockingly cold waters of a marsh.

My arrival set off ripples through the scummy bracken. Cattails, the color of winter wheat, stirred and parted. A massive S-wave flowed toward me and one word formed in my brain: Gator!

Wow, talk about ending on a hook!  What do you enjoy most and least about writing?

I love to get lost in another world for a while, and for me, that’s what writing is. Of course, pushing through a complex plot problem can be stressful, but in the end, it’s always worth the effort.

What’s next for you?

I’m thrilled to say I have another Jamie Sinclair novel on the way. Also, I’m working on a brand-new project with a whole new cast of characters. I can’t wait until the day I can tell you more!

For more information about Nichole and her books, visit her website,  You can also connect with her on Twitter, where she’s @NicChristoff, Facebook, and Goodreads, and you can find her books at Random House.

Nichole is giving a copy of The Kill Box to one of today’s commenters.  You must live in the US to win.  So tell us, what’s your favorite book or movie about a strong woman or your favorite private investigator book or movie?






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Published on December 04, 2016 21:30

November 25, 2016

In the Eye of the Holiday Storm

If you’ve been anywhere near a television lately, you know the holiday chaos has started in the US with Black Friday sales.  Crowded shopping centers and stressed-out people and distracted drivers will be everywhere this weekend and will persist, in varying degrees, right up through December 24.

If you’ve experienced any of this, you may want to take a look at this photo of Ocean Isle Beach, NC, and mentally put yourself in it.  Unless, of course, you enjoy the crowds and the hectic pace, in which case, more power to you!


My first taste of the holiday chaos came, to my surprise,  on Wednesday.  I went to our local Michaels in the late morning.  When I came out, about 12:30 PM, the parking lot was a sea of cars with multitudes circling like sharks in the water.  I had one other place to go, at the other end of the strip center, but I looked at that mass of cars and decided to walk.  I had a parking space already, and I meant to keep it.

I didn’t venture out yesterday.  I’ll do my shopping in dibs and dabs so as not to join the Holiday Stress Club.  I’ve already planned the ways I’m going relax after my various plunges into the crowd.

You may remember that I enjoy jigsaw puzzles.  Over the years, we’ve acquired quite a few, so I have plenty to choose from.  Yesterday, I finished this one.


I recommend them as both a way to relax after a hectic trip to the mall and a way to distract the forebrain so the subconscious can work out things like, say, plot issues.

Then there are movies.  Is anybody else really, really excited to see Star Wars: Rogue One?  I’m thinking about it a lot, so here’s photo of me with R2D2 at Charleston SC’s Atomacon last year.


For this movie, the dh, the boy, and I will likely brave the crowds.  We did so last year for The Force Awakens, and it was worth it.

I haven’t been to the Okefenokee in more than two years, not since Duchesse and I took our (possibly infamous) research road trip to Georgia.  I really want to get back there, and looking at pictures of that wild, peaceful place makes me feel as though it really hasn’t been that long since I visited.  So I look at the photos and think about what I want to check out for future books.



Finally, there’s always reading.  Of course.  As soon as I finish editing the current WIP, I plan to start Matthew Beaumont’s Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London.  It’s a look at London after dark, spanning the eras from Chaucer to Dickens.  So I’ll escape into London through the ages, when life was simpler, and maybe pick up some story ideas along the way.


Doing any one of these slips me onto an island of calm despite the chaos swirling all around.  It’s like being in the eye of the hurricane.

What about you?  Do you enjoy the holiday hustle and bustle?  If so, what do you like best about it?  If not, what are your favorite escapes?

What book are you reading next?

Are you planning to see Rogue One?  If so, are you going as soon as it’s out, or are you waiting (as we usually do) for the crowds to thin out a bit?

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Published on November 25, 2016 21:39

October 25, 2016

The Square Peg Problem: A #HoldOntoTheLight Blog Post

I’m pleased to be part of the Hold Onto The Light blog tour this year along with bandita Jeanne and yesterday’s guest, Gail Z. Martin, and many other authors. #HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy, science fiction, paranormal romance, horror, and YA authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues.

We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment. To that end, we’re sharing our own experiences with these issues.


My brush with severe depression came a couple of years after I got out of school.  Work was going well, but some issues in my personal life were becoming problematic.  I now understand that some of these things had been problems for a while, but I’d been able to ignore them in the press of schoolwork and the active social life school offered.

But now I was out of school and working in a community where I didn’t have much in common with most people. I had a few terrific friends in the town and at work, but they weren’t enough to hold back the feeling that things were out of control, that I wasn’t going in a direction I wanted long-term.

I felt like the proverbial square peg in the round hole, and I wasn’t sure what to do about that. And because I wasn’t sure, was somewhat embarrassed about not knowing, and so was operating on the “ignore it and it will go away” theory (never a good idea with a problem, at least for me), I began to feel worse and worse.

I stopped reaching out to my friends. Unless they called me, I went home after work and…well, I can’t really say what I did because it wasn’t remarkable enough to remember. I loved my job, but I didn’t want to live it, nor did I want it to be the main bright spot in my life.

So I drifted along in an ever-darkening funk, faking normalcy–pretty well, I thought–until I lost something at work.  I was given an envelope to take from one office to another, and I lost it.  I had no memory of what I’d done with it after it was put in my hand.  This was mortifying enough, but the next day, I was told the boss wanted to see me.

He was a nice guy, so I didn’t think he was going to be nasty about it, but I knew I’d screwed up.  I opened our conversation with an apology, which he waved away.  “You didn’t go anywhere outside the office,” he said.  “The envelope will turn up.  I’m more concerned about what’s going on with you. This isn’t like you, and I’m hearing from others that you don’t seem like yourself lately.”

So much for my theory that I was faking it well.

I should add here that I’m not a sharer by nature.  I’m not much for talking about my feelings with people I don’t know well, which makes writing this blog post a bit discomfiting, too.  On the day of that conversation, though, I was feeling so overwhelmed and so lost about what to do that when my boss asked, “So what’s going on with you?” I told him how I’d been feeling, which was pretty much that I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the hole in after me.

He heard me out in silence, like the good listener he was.  When I finished, he said, “I think you should go talk to someone who knows how to help with issues like these.”  He fished around on his desk and came up with a business card. “This woman works for the county, but she’ll see you once on her own time and help you figure out how to tackle this if you want.  Shall I call her?”

I wasn’t so far down the hole that I couldn’t recognize a lifeline when it was flung at me, so I asked him to make the call.  While I sat there, he arranged an appointment for me. I wasn’t especially optimistic about this, partly because depression saps optimism and partly because the one time I’d gone to a counselor in school, at the university counseling center, his advice had been the not-so-helpful “You just can’t let it bother you.” If I’d know how to do that, of course, I wouldn’t have been sitting in his office in the first place.

But I’d reached a point where I had to try something, and my boss thought highly of this woman, so why not?

His friend saw me two days later.  I talked nonstop for an hour, sharing with her the things I’d told him, things I hadn’t told anyone else because I felt as though I should be handling things better, letting out all the things that had been bothering me. She listened and nodded and was sympathetic but basically let me talk.

She couldn’t see me regularly because I lived in the wrong county and also made too much money to qualify for their sliding scale.  At the end of the hour, she gave me a list of people in private practice she thought could help me. As I was leaving, she said, “I want you to call me Monday and let me know whether you’ve found someone.”

I’d seen enough TV shows and read enough books to realize she actually wanted me to call her Monday to be sure I was still around Monday.  That was a bit of a jolt.  I wasn’t suicidal.  At least, not yet.

But I did find someone, also a woman, and I did call my boss’s friend back on Monday to let her know and to thank her.  I thanked my boss, too, for looking past the immediate problem of a lost envelope (which turned up four weeks later, stuck in a reference book) to the bigger problem of my mental health.

When I saw the therapist I’d found, I again talked nonstop for an hour–for each of the first four sessions.  This made me realize that I’d been a lot more bothered than I was letting myself admit.  As I left after the fourth hour, I asked, “Are you seeing any patterns here?”

“Yes,” she replied, “and we’ll talk about that next time.”

We did talk about it next time, and she started helping me analyze the roots of my issues and figure out how to cope with them.  Never once did she tell me I just couldn’t let it bother me, instead focusing on how to defuse the situation and my reactions, which underlined the fact that the guy I’d seen in school just wasn’t very good at his job.

There’ve been a couple of times since then when I needed some guidance about family crises.  I went back to this therapist, and she helped me tackle them before they managed to turn my horizon dark.

I was lucky.  I had a boss who cared about the people who worked for him.  I had health insurance that covered counseling and a friend who loaned me the money for the deductible, which I didn’t have and didn’t want to ask my parents for since I didn’t want to open that proverbial can of worms with them. I learned that just because the first person I talked to wasn’t helpful, that didn’t mean there weren’t people out there who could be. And I learned how to ask for help when I needed it.

Depression is insidious.  It leaches into a person’s mood and mindset and saps all the color and vitality.  All the joy and hope. Learning to recognize it before it gets too strong a grip is vital.

If you think a friend is struggling, ask him or her what’s going on.  If you’re struggling, talk to someone, a friend, a counselor, a minister, whomever you trust.  If that person doesn’t help you, talk to someone else.  I wish you all the best.

Even if no one in your life is affected by these issues, there are things you can do to help. Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to  and join us on Facebook

Thanks for reading this post.  Now, if you will, tell me what was the best thing to happen to you lately.


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Published on October 25, 2016 22:06

August 11, 2016

The Summer of Green and Gold

As our regular visitors already know, I’ve been a serious Anglophile since I saw When Knighthood Was in Flower, which was about the romance of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, on The Wonderful World of Disney.  I was in the second grade at the time.  Thereafter, I was fascinated with knights and castles.  Fell in love with the Arthurian legends. Was interested in all things British–yet saw no problem with enthusiasm over the American Revolution as well.

ArthurMy parents were probably hoping this would ease up eventually.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure they thought English history was a more wholesome interest for me than the Legion of Superheroes. *g* They did get me a book of Arthurian legends, which I passed on to the boy, for Christmas a couple of years later. That’s it, pictured at left.

Anyway, time went by and my interest in knights, England, and castles endured.  So my parents made my dream come true.  They had me sign up for the summer program Davidson College co-sponsored with Mary Baldwin College at the University of Oxford.

I should add here that my parents didn’t have a lot of money to spare.  I’m not sure how they managed to pay for the program, but I didn’t think of that until years later.  At the time, I was just  delighted and thrilled and over the moon with excitement.

Our program was not based at one of the very old, very famous colleges.  It was based at one of the newer ones, which had a big, tacky mural that we all mocked on its depressingly contemporary dining hall.  But I didn’t care.  I was walking down streets that had been laid out hundreds of years ago and ran between buildings built hundreds of years ago.

I had a small room on the third floor (to us–they call it the second floor) of an old house (likely Edwardian, not extremely old, alas). My desk was under the window, and when I looked out, the sunlight filtering through the leaves made the bright green seem edged in gold.

My time in Oxford, when I look back on it, was all edged in green and gold.  That’s how I think of that summer.

I’ve been back a couple of times, primarily on quick research trips with the dh.  Those trips required us to cover so much ground, though, that there wasn’t a lot of time for poking around in any one place.

Until this summer.

He was invited to participate in a conference at Oxford, so I tagged along.  While he was in sessions, I revisited places I remember from my summer as a student there, which was much longer ago than it seems.

RadcliffeCam2016Our course of study was the history and literature of Tudor & Stuart England.  We had lectures four days a week and small-group tutorials with Oxford dons two days a week.  We wrote papers every week, and most of our research was done in the Radcliffe Camera of the Bodleian Library. So naturally, I wanted to see it again.

As part of our program, we had reader cards for the Bodleian, so we could walk past all the “private” signs and the tourists with their cameras and go on in.  There were always members of our group in there, ready to take a break and talk (quietly) for a few minutes. When I went back, part of me wished I could still do that, but those days are gone.

BridgeofSighs2016Near the Radcliffe Camera is the Bridge of Sighs, which spans New College Lane.  If you look past the bridge in the photo, you’ll see the narrow opening of St. Helen’s Passage.  It leads, with a couple of turns, to the Turf tavern, which was dates to 1381.  My friends and I used to go there and have a pint or a meal on occasion.

Turf2016I got a huge kick out of eating in a place that was so old. The food was pretty good, too. That’s part of the Turf, pictured at right.  I couldn’t get far enough back from it to get the whole building in the photo. The walls of New College loom over it, but I didn’t get a good shot of those, either. (In the photo, the yellow wall isn’t part of the Turf, nor is the gray one in the background.)

Eagle&Child2016The dh likes Oxford because of its children’s literature associations–Tolkien and The Hobbit, C.S. Lewis and Narnia, Lewis Carroll and Alice.  So he naturally wanted to visit another of our hangouts from that summer, the Eagle & Child pub.  Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams, aka The Inklings, used to meet there.  Here’s a photo of the pub sign.

By the way, I can’t share my original photos because they’re not digital.  I’d have to dig them out and scan them, and they were taken with a Kodak Instamatic, which means they aren’t as sharply focused as the pictures an SLR or even a digital point-and-shoot (or a phone) takes now.

MartyrsMon2016The Eagle & Child is near the martyrs monument, a Victorian tribute to the clerics burned at the stake near its site in 1555.  Queen Mary Tudor wanted England to return to the Catholic fold.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of London, and the Bishop of Worcester refused to accept her choice. The penalty for that refusal was, of course, death.  Hence the martyrs and the monument.

A ways up the Woodstock Road from the martyrs monument is the pub where our group most often hung out that summer, the Royal Oak.  It commemorates Charles II hiding in an oak tree to escape Cromwell’s troops (the Roundheads) after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.  I understand there are a number of Royal Oak pubs scattered around England.  Below are a photo of the pub, taken from across the street, and one of its sign.







And before you ask, no, we didn’t spend the whole summer drinking.  But you could say we enjoyed the pub culture of our host country.

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Published on August 11, 2016 21:37

January 27, 2016

A New Year Smorgasbord

The start of a new year is always so full of potential.  It’s like walking the aisles at Michaels or Home Depot, where choices abound.  The calendar pages are mostly blank, leaving room for plenty of ways to fill them in.

I’m not a crafter.  I walk through Michaels looking for raffle basket materials or picture frames.  As I stroll through, I see paints and beads and easels and flowers and ribbons and stickers, none of which I could transform into something gorgeous.  My skills just don’t run that way.  But I always love seeing what those who do have those abilities produce.

I’m actually better able to use the various options from Home Depot. My dad had no sons and two daughters and saw no reason why his daughters should not learn to cut boards, drive nails, and wield screwdrivers. We have no renovation projects on tap as yet, but it never hurts to get ideas.

Besides, the heroine of Nemesis, Tasha Murdock, is a building contractor and interior designer.  She totally loves Home Depot and fabric and furniture shops.  I’m having fun delving into Tasha’s world.

Nemesis_finalAs I look ahead to the year, I have a busy plate.  First up is the revision of my historical fantasy, The Herald of Day, which isn’t coming along as quickly as I might like. It’s the first volume of the Boar King’s Honor trilogy.  Then there’s Nemesis, the next Light Mage Wars paranormal romance. 

Also lurking in the foreground is the sequel to Danger’s Edge in the Capitol Danger anthology.  Romantic suspense is fun for me, too.  I love to blow things up, and I’m not picky about whether I use magic or C4 to do that.

The problem with all these choices is that you have to pick.  Maybe some people can work on three or four projects simultaneously, but I can’t.  I have to plan.

So here’s the current plan for the first part of the year:

The Herald of Day comes first.

Nemesis is up next.

Danger’s Dance will follow Nemesis.

If there’s time, “The Magic Christmas Guy,” a Light Mage Wars Christmas short story, will slide in there somewhere.

Later in the year will be a new spy series and more Light Mage Wars as well as another installment of the Boar King’s Honor trilogy.

What’s on your plate for the year ahead?  If it’s a mixture of things, what will you pick first?  What kind of store makes you dizzy with the potential surrounding you?

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Published on January 27, 2016 13:38

December 24, 2015

On the 12th Day of Christmas, Pax Vobiscum

Peace be with you, whether or not you celebrate on this particular day. I sort of feel as though everyone can use a bit of serenity now and again.  As I write this, on Christmas Eve, our neighborhood is peaceful, fewer traffic sounds than usual, no construction noises, and no boisterous people. By the time you read this, the traffic noises will likely be down to zero.  I enjoy that quiet because it’s so rare.

KingsCh2015_1This seems like a good time to share a couple of photos from my trip to England last April, one of the highlights of my year.  Here is the fan-vaulted ceiling of Kings College Chapel, Cambridge, which I visited with Anna S.

This kind of Gothic detailing always amazes me.  I have to stop and think that it was done by hand, with hammer and chisel and no shortcuts.  The pace of life was slower back then, and things took as long as they took.

The building of the chapel took from 1441 to 1515. The cornerstone was laid by 19-year-old Henry VI.  Work stalled during the reign of Edward IV but began in earnest again under Richard III and was completed in the reign of Henry VIII.

KingsCh2015_2I’m a sucker for stained glass windows, especially old ones. According to the Kings College website, the stained chapel’s glass survived the Civil War.  At right is a photo of one of the windows at Kings College Chapel. Cromwell’s troops destroyed the windows at other churches, including Winchester Cathedral, but these were spared although the troops used the chapel as a parade ground.

The website indicates the glass was removed for safety during World War II.  York Minster also removed its stained glass before the war. Westminster Abbey was no so lucky, unfortunately.  The bombing during World War II destroyed its medieval windows, so very little of the old glass remains.

Talking about war feels a little odd when the topic overall is peace.  Looking at stained glass windows makes me feel peaceful, though, and when they’re so very old, it helps me believe beauty can survive amid darkness. Which is really kinda what Christmas is about, at least for me.

Magic_and_Mistletoe_finalThis year, I’m also celebrating because I have my first Christmas story ever out at last! “Magic & Mistletoe” is a longish short story, a followup to “The Solstice Ball” in last year’s Tiny Treats: a Holiday Collection anthology. (The anthology is still free, BTW).

Deputy Shire Reeve Roland Wade and mage teacher Peri Lee try to figure out whether a bookworm and a badass can find love under the mistletoe.

Just as a side note, in the non-Bandita Christmas calendar, today is the 1st Day of Christmas (per medieval custom), and I guess that means the GR’s reign as Lord of Misrule gets extended. I better warn Sven to lock up the egg nog!

I’m giving one person today a green dragon ornament (suitable for hanging without a tree if one is so inclined) in honor of the dragon in my upcoming release, The Herald of Day.  I’m going to pick today’s winner based totally on my whim.

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Published on December 24, 2015 21:58